North Texas Daily

Two international students thriving for Mean Green swimming and diving

Two international students thriving for Mean Green swimming and diving

Two international students thriving for Mean Green swimming and diving
October 13
08:51 2015

Brady Keane | Staff Writer

@BradyKeane3

After traveling a combined 6,483 miles away from home to attend North Texas and join the Mean Green swimming and diving team, sophomore Claudia Kitching and freshman Natalia Kwiatkowska have no plans to ease into life as division one athletes in an entirely new country.

In fact, despite having lived in Texas and the United States for less than a year, the two have quickly adjusted to the culture and have high expectations for their inaugural season with the Mean Green.

“Everything is bigger in Texas,” Kitching said. “I want to make it to the NCAA [Championships] and get a school record as well in the 200 breaststroke.”

The goals and expectations for the newcomers to the Mean Green swimming and diving program are certainly high, but their quick adjustment to life in the United States has been credited to the team atmosphere surrounding the girls.

Kitching joined the Mean Green after spending her freshman year at the Skema Business School in France, while Kwiatkowska attended Robert Bateman high school in Burlington, Ontario last year.

“[The team] has been so helpful,” Kwiatkowska said. “Everyone in Texas seems to be more friendly as far as the team goes. Every body here is super sweet, and the entire team is always there to help you no matter what you need.”

Although the journey to Texas from Canada or France may seem to be an improbable one, head coach Brandon Bray said that the recruiting process for swimmers outside of the country is not all that different.

“The recruiting for me is the same,” Bray said. “We look at anybody, anywhere, whether they are here or out of the country. The only difference is the procedural side.”

Grabbing the attention of coaches in the United States wasn’t a problem for Kitching and Kwiatkowska, as both swimmers built up a long list of accolades before joining the Mean Green this season.

Kitching qualified for the 2012 British Olympic Trials and placed third at the French Open Championships in the 200m breaststroke in 2015. Kwiatkowska set records in the 50m backstroke, 200m IM and 400m IM for the Burlington Aquatic Devilrays while also claiming top-five finishes in three events at the 2015 Provincial Age Group Championships.

Despite the accolades, Kitching and Kwiatkowska enjoy the culture that Bray has established at North Texas that puts more focus on the team rather than individual results.

“Swimming in France is more individual,” Kitching said. “It’s more about yourself. Coming to North Texas and swimming more as a team is really enjoyable. People really push you, and it makes you want to swim faster not only for yourself, but for your teammates as well.”

That culture has grown and developed since Bray arrived to take over the program in 2013. In addition to the emphasis that he places on teamwork, Bray has consistently stressed the importance of hard work in the classroom.

Last season, the Mean Green led Conference USA in the number of student-athletes earning honor roll and academic medal designations for the second straight year.

“[North Texas] had a really high GPA standpoint,” Kwiatkowska said. “It was the perfect choice for me.”

So far, both Kitching and Kwiatkowska have seen success through the early part of the season. Kitching was a member of the team that won first place in the 200-yard medley relay against the University of Incarnate Word last weekend while also winning the 200-yard breaststroke over the Cardinals.

Kwiatkowska was on the team that combined for a first-place finish in the 300-yard backstroke relay at the North Texas Relays earlier in the season.

The Mean Green swimming and diving team will be in action again 3 pm, Friday Oct. 23, for a dual meet at Texas A&M in College Station.

Featured Image: File Photo Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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